Classroom Management

Supporting ELL Students–Turn and Talk/Partner Wheel

I’m trying something new this year to give more structure to the old ‘Turn and Talk.’  Even though I teach upper elementary, we still come to the rug for lessons and read-alouds.  I love my easel and I like having my students nearby when we’re trying something new.  The problem was that when I asked them to turn and talk about something, some students opted to sit silent because they didn’t know who to turn and talk to, while other students spent a few minutes scooting closer to their BFFs or trying to find someone to turn and talk to.  At their assigned seats, they talked with their shoulder partner, but on the rug they were lost.  This was wasted time.  There had to be a better way!

Turn and Talk  or Partner Wheel for 5th Grade ELL Students

Enter the ‘Turn and Talk’ or partner wheel!  Here’s how it works:

1–Post the wheel in the classroom and turn the inner circle once a week.  This will be a student’s ‘turn and talk’ partner when they come to the rug.  You can spin more often if you like.

2–Teach students that when it is time to meet on the rug (yes, I still say that to my 5th graders), they need to sit beside their partner.

That’s it.  It was very easy to make and only required some poster board, brads, scissors, and markers PLUS something to trace the inner and outer circles.  I traced the lid to a bucket for the larger circle and a paper plate for the inner circle.   In hindsight, I think I would have laminated before adding numbers so that I could use a dry erase marker and switch things up from time to time.

NOTE–Turn and talk is part of “Structured Conversations,” from the book “Seven Steps to a Language Rich Classroom” by John Seidlitz.  It’s a strategy for building language with ELL students, but I’ve found it really benefits ALL students.  It’s a must read if you work with English language learners.

Best Book for Building Language With ELL Students--Seven Steps to a Language Rich Classroom


Project Boards Make for an Easy Status of the Class

The end of the year in my classroom brings lots of big projects!  As my 5th graders get ready to go off to middle school, I want them to be prepared to tackle time management with lengthier, more complex assignments.  Students have spent about an hour a day over the last 2 weeks working on a biome web design activity where they research a biome and build a website designed to teach younger students about their biome.  This project is huge.  Not only are they researching and writing about their learning, they are also adding images, text, and activities to a live website!  It can be difficult to know where students are and if they are making progress towards goals.  So, to help me monitor how my students are progressing, we use a project board.  It’s simple.  Students move their clip to show their progression on a project.  When I notice a student (or group) is falling behind, I can see it and intervene.  Students who are ahead of the game may need a mini-lesson on going deeper, or they may be ready for an extension.  This year I used the stiff foam poster board because it sits easily on the marker tray of my white board and I can move it around if needed.  Check it out, below!

@thepensivesloth class project biomes classroom management research 5th grade

Use a foam board and clothespins to make a project board for lengthy assignments. Project boards help you to get a status of the class and intervene with students who fall behind or need extension activities because they are zooming ahead.

Thanks for stopping by!

–The Pensive Sloth


End of Year Behavior Booster–It’s Sciencetastic!

Every teacher knows that the end of the year can present some classroom management challenges.  Kids are excited about summer, there are loose ends to tie up with library books and paperwork, and for some reason students think that when state testing is over, so is all the learning.  So, I am trying something new this year–Using SCIENCE to encourage excellent behavior!  I love science.  My students love science.  And there are so many great hands-on activities that don’t quite fit into the year.  Why not do those NOW as the year is winding down?

Here’s my plan.  I’m starting with an owl pellet lab.  Owl pellets are great for reviewing life science concepts like food chains, ecosystems, and much more!  So, to encourage great behavior, we have set a goal that our class needs to earn 10 points to earn the owl pellet lab and we will track our points each day.  When we reach 10, we earn the owl pellet lab!  The sooner we reach 10 points, the sooner we get to dig in to those owl pellets.  I’ve even posted a chart in the room to track our points, and since we are working with integers, I’ve tied that in too.

@thepensivesloth Owl Pellet Lab #5thgrade #classroommanagement

End of the Year Motivator–We are using science to encourage excellent behavior as the year winds down. Here is our class chart as we work to earn 10 points for an owl pellet lab activity.

I am also planning to build solar powered ovens for cooking smores and to build and test paper airplanes, but students are going to have to earn it!  My kids are excited and I could see this working for all kinds of things–reader’s theater, math art projects, and much more.  Want to know a secret?  I actually planned to do this stuff anyway, but now I get a little more bang for my buck with a little class motivation.

–The Pensive Sloth

CHAMPS–Behavior Management in the Classroom

CHAMPS anchor chart sets  classroom expectations for students in whole group, small group, and independent settings.

CHAMPS anchor chart sets classroom expectations for students in whole group, small group, and independent settings.

Spring break has been fantastic, but it is winding to a close and school will start up again on Monday.  There is always a transition period for students as they return from a long break and get back in the swing of things at school.  We will certainly take some time Monday morning to review our classroom expectations to set students up for success.  Let me tell you a little about CHAMPS.

CHAMPS expectations are taught at the beginning of the year and reviewed often, such as a quick reminder when starting a small group activity or a review when students forget during a whole group lesson.  The expectations help students to know what to do at all times in the classroom.  We even have CHAMPS expectations for the hallway!  Here is what each letter represents:

C is for Conversation–What voice level should students be using during each setting?

H is for Help–How will students get help if they have questions?  Raising hands, asking partners?

A is for Activity–What is the activity expectation, for example are students taking a test or working in a small group on a science lab?

M is for Movement–Are students allowed to get up, sharpen pencils, etc. or should they stay seated?

P is for Participation–What are the expectations for participation?  Should students be commenting one at a time, collaborating with their group, on their own?

S is for Signal–How will the teacher signal that she needs the group’s attention?  Clapping, counting to 3, having students echo, etc.

The big ones for my kiddos are movement and conversation.  You can see in the chart that I have starred movement and added that it should be purposeful, meaning that we don’t need to get up and sharpen each map pencil one at a time or walk around the room to get to a tissue box that was within reach.  We are still working on this one!

What I love about CHAMPS is that it is easy to set up and communicate with students.  Yes there are still rules, rewards, and consequences, but CHAMPS minimizes the need for extensive systems to manage classroom behavior.  I love it!

NOTE:  There are a few variations on this and you have to find what works for your kiddos!  I believe the CHAMPS idea originally came form Safe and Civil Schools and is part of PBS (positive behavior support).  I’m no expert on this, but a little Gooogling will get you more info.

Feel free to comment below if you have questions or would like to share how your classroom systems are set up!

–The Pensive Sloth